Refugee Benefit Concert - Gets Press!

Article was published in Wisconsin Gazette on April 14, 2017.

Painted Caves to play two benefit shows

Entertainment, Featured Entertainment, Music April 14,2017

By Joey Grihalva

These days, there are no shortage of benefit concerts in Milwaukee, which says quite a bit about the state of our civic life. While government funding is being cut to vital social services and marginalized people are being vilified, mounting frustration is being channeled into productive resistance efforts by independent citizens and non-profit organizations.

Since the new administration has taken office, the arts and healthcare have been under attack like never before. President Trump’s immigration ban has complicated the Middle Eastern refugee crisis and xenophobia is on the rise.

In these troubling times, music and art remain a strong source of inspiration and support. We’re seeing more and more artists lend a hand and show solidarity with those who are struggling.

For Ali Lubbad of local Arabic garage rock band Painted Caves, it was an honor to be invited to perform at a benefit for Syrian and other refugees on April 15, at the Riverwest Public House.

Lubbad is of Palestinian descent. His father was a refugee who came to Milwaukee from Jordan. Syria also holds a special place in Lubbad’s heart. He brought his wife there on their honeymoon.

“This benefit is an acknowledgement of humanity. It’s not just about whether you’re Syrian or Palestinian or Mexican or black. It’s the idea that you’re a human being and human beings should be afforded some respect in this world.”

Lubbad’s father died when he was very young. He didn’t know the Palestinian side of his family growing up. It wasn’t until after high school in California — where he came of age in the 1980s punk scene — that he connected with his Middle Eastern roots.

“I was living in San Francisco in 1992. One day I saw this huge beautiful mural on the side of a liquor store where I used to buy cigarettes that read ‘END THE OCCUPATION.’ I asked the guy working there what it meant. He explained the military occupation of Palestine and I told him, ‘You know, I think I’m Arab.’ He asked me my name and it turns out he knew my uncle. Within a month I had a plane ticket to Jordan to meet my grandparents. That was pretty incredible and it changed my life.”

“The amount of love I felt when I first met my grandparents was amazing. Then I met more of my family in Israel. There were Israeli snipers who would shoot you dead if you were out past curfew, so my relatives were living under terrible conditions. Yet they were super kind and giving. They had nothing, but they gave me everything.”

Lubbad hopes that Saturday’s event at the Riverwest Public House might help foster a similar generosity of spirit. The event is being produced by Lutheran Social Services: Refugee Resettlement and Diaconia Connections, who work to raise awareness about the Syrian refugee crisis, ameliorate poverty in Syria, and assist refugees in the transition to life in a new country.

“Your humanity is revealed by what you do unto others,” says Lubbad. “You can only realize mercy, glory and human capacity by exercising compassion and humanity towards others.”




Jeremy Ault